Mike Southon is a former mobile DJ, musician and singer as well as an astute businessman. He was co-founder of The Instruction Set in 1984, selling training in computer services, later selling on out to Hoskyns (now Cap Gemini Ernst & Young). He’s collaborated in and helped set up numerous companies, and is a published author several times over – and is regarded as one of the most experienced entrepreneur mentors in the UK. His original book from 2002, ‘The Beermat Entrepreneur’ has been updated for 2018. He says one the secrets of entrepreneurial success is to ‘find a foil’ – someone who compliments what you do, and be nice!
Peter Aiers is Chief Executive at the Churches Conservation Trust, and he has had a life-long interest in history and conservation. His organisation maintains over 300 historic places of worship and he manages 80 people and a multi million pound fundraising pot. He’s spent 12 years at the organisation and took over as CEO seven months ago. He’s always worked in conservation (apart from a stint working in a chippy!) and says it was refreshing being given ‘the push to make something happen and to prove myself’ when he was appointed the first conservation officer for the Church of England. He loves the outdoors, Manchester rock music and new challenges.
Helen Brand is Chief Executive of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, the global body for professional accountants – yet admits to not having trained in accountancy! She maintains that a career choice in the industry is a terrific grounding for any business. Her personal interests lie in politics and international relations. She enjoys travel, and is a supporter of gender diversity in business. Having spent time working in the children’s shoe department of a store, she says we shouldn’t shy away from jobs which might not necessarily boost a CV – because they can be career- and knowledge-enhancing all the same! Helen was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in June 2011.
Ardi Kolah is director of the GDPR programme at Henley Business School, and the author of a recent guide to implementing the much-discussed regulation. He’s a lawyer by background, and a graduate of King’s College in London. He worked in corporate law before joining the BBC as a trainee, and later became one of the first voices on BBC Radio 5 (now 5 Live). Ardi has also taught law – even teaching Nick Clegg at Westminster School – and has run his own communications and PR agency. He says his track record may not look ideal, but it’s exactly the approach he would encourage anyone embarking on a career today to take. He says it’s all about taking chances and following your heart!
Karen Jones is the founder of Citywealth magazine and the supporting organisation, which has been running for almost a decade. She shares how a trip to Nicaragua inspired her to set up her own business, seeing her through to working with high net worth individuals, and becoming an advocate for women in business. Karen also delves into her love of the outdoors, extensive travelling across the globe, and a love of dogs that somehow crept up on her.
Joining Sue Dougan in the hot seat is Sarah Kelly, CEO of Stagecoach Performing Arts, for Stagecoach’s 30th anniversary since its inception in 1988. She discusses the importance of performing arts in helping children to develop well-rounded life skills for adulthood, as well as providing a safe space for self-expression and creativity – especially in the wake of a huge drop in Government funding for the creative arts in mainstream education. Sarah shares her earliest memories of visiting her father at his chain of butcher shops, and how she developed her strong work ethic from him – as well as never forgetting her mother’s saying, “Choose what you enjoy and you’ll always be good at it”. Plus, she talks about how her own experience of amateur dramatics as a teenager feeds into the way she approaches her CEO role now; why she thinks pushing boundaries and moving with the times is so central to successful business; and how failure is important for future success.
David Joland can split his career into four parts: his first venture selling disposable products to the catering industry; his second selling all kinds of mail order items; his third in media sales; and then time out as an entrepreneur and investor. This variety has allowed him space and time to write his first book, 'The Biggest Idea in the World' (a fictional account of an Uber driver taking on Silicon Valley), and to have a go at stand-up comedy. He admits he gets carried away with some ideas, but that the money-making ones "more than make up for the loss-making ones".
Mic Martin is a former police dog handler who found fame as the no-nonsense trainer in BBC TV’s ‘Dog Borstal’ and now runs a successful dog training business, and trains animals for film and TV. His latest project is the movie ‘Show Dogs’, working with up to 40 animals a time. He adores the animals he works with and says that often the humans who also require training. He’s been responsible for dogs used in the Harry Potter films, in some of the Bond franchise films and in numerous TV adverts.
Mark Wright started early – his favourite anecdote is about charging his siblings to use the television in the family lounge! You’ll know him best as the winner of ‘The Apprentice’ in 2014 and he’s since started a digital business with Lord Sugar’s backing. He’s worked in sales and digital marketing in the past and is intending to expand his business, Climb Online, internationally this year. His big tip to secure a great position? “Never ask what the salary is”. Rather, show how good you are in the first few weeks so an employer can work out how valuable you’re going to be!
Sue Dougan interviews Jonathan MacDonald, an expert in managing change who has worked with major organisations such as IKEA, Procter and Gamble, Google, Apple and Unilever. He draws on a tough childhood – he was often bullied at school owing to his ethnic origins and holds his hardworking parents in high regard. He advocates applying ‘your passion and purpose into practice’ and surrounding yourself with those who share your vision. He’s now a published author and wants us all to start each day with spirit and positivity! His latest book is Powered by Change: How to Design Your Business for Perpetual Success.